There was a time, many decades ago, when hunting had us by the throat. Fall was the best season of the year, hands down.
We would do about anything to get a good shot at a duck, deer, goose or pheasant. A friend of mine and I were once told that if we put as much time into making money as we spent on hunting we would be millionaires.
Waterfowl hunting was our biggest thrill. It was almost a form of insanity but one shared by many others. There was a guy who slept in a boat on Lake Christina in November just to hold a good duck hunting spot. There was a group of teenagers who jumped in their trucks in their stocked feet to follow a flock of Canada geese from Otter Tail County to Abercrombie, North Dakota. There were two rival gangs that competed for the best duck hunting spots on an island near Dalton in every kind of weather. We would carry our old wood boat, guns, shells and decoys over the railroad tracks to reach the lake and hunt all day. Frozen fingers, frozen feet, it just did not matter.
The autumn months still have a lot going for them but over the years some of us have started to appreciate what spring offers as well. Instead of just a chance to hunt, it offers a chance to build and help the resource you enjoy so much.
You can walk outside on a spring evening in rural Minnesota and not be bitten up by mosquitoes. The grass is greening up but it is still too short to start mowing. The high temperature for the day is only pushing 70. The heat and humidity of summer has not arrived nor the tourist crowd with their boats, motorhomes, campers and jetskis. Best of all, those long, dreary months of winter are behind you for a while.
This is the time to plant trees. The West Otter Tail County Soil and Water District was busy last week filling the orders placed over the winter months by tree lovers. My son-in-law and I decided to split an order of quaking aspen this spring. This beautiful white tree with bright yellow leaves in the fall will grow up to 65 feet in height.
In other years I have planted maple, chokecherry, apricot, black walnut, plum, red oak, Scotch pine, white spruce, black ash and red cedar. It has all been part of an attempt to create a habitat for wildlife - first suggested to me by my son 18 years ago - and it has been working. The amount of wildlife we have been seeing is growing.
We have been fortunate to own land close to other habitat acres. This unofficial habitat “corridor,” created by wildlife production areas, woodlands, fields of CRP land, lakes and sloughs, stretches for many miles through southern Otter Tail and eastern Grant County. Throughout it you will find whitetail deer, wild turkey, geese, pheasants, ducks and many predators, including bald eagles, owls, red-tailed hawks, fox and coyotes.
The members of wildlife groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever will tell you habitat is the key to wildlife production and they are right.
If you can find a way to be a part of this effort to create habitat you are most likely going to find you like it.
Brian Hansel is a reporter for The Fergus Falls Daily Journal.